Billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein was found unconscious in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on August 10, 2019, with a noose around his neck and barely hanging onto his life. He had been incarcerated following his arrest on federal charges of sex trafficking minors in July 2019. His death was ruled as a suicide by the coroner, but the circumstances and questionable events surrounding his death eventually fuelled conspiracy theories of possible murder. Investigations Discovery is taking another look at the high-profile serial sex-offender and trafficker and the mystery that shrouds his sudden death, in its new three-part series, “Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein?”
Epstein’s 2019 exposé wasn’t the first time that he has been in trouble with the law on the grounds of sexual abuse. In 2004, he had been accused of sexually abusing at least 36 girls, some as young as 14 years old. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to his crimes but was charged with only two and was initially given an 18-month sentence. For a man of his wealth and caliber, however, it was evident that he would be able to hire the best lawyers in the country who were somehow able to reduce his sentence to 13 months in custody. Upon his release in 2011, he stayed registered with the New York State as a level-three sex offender, a designation that would have followed him for the rest of his life.
Besides sexual crimes, the financier has been involved in one too many financial scams dating back to his beginning as a young aspiring entrepreneur on Wall Street. And the thing that stuck out about Epstein even back then was how he would elude justice and punishment for his crimes with the utmost ease. As Steven Hoffenberg, his former colleague described him, Epstein was a skilled “manipulator” who had a “gift for reading people’s minds” and “said what people wanted to hear”. Despite his humble beginnings and hailing from a poor background, his skillful handling of words and play on emotions rendered him powerful enough to get him to where he stood until his unexpected demise.
He was raised in a working-class household, and as a child, demonstrated incredible knowledge in playing the piano and math. In fact, he was so proficient that he skipped two grades and graduated from Lafayette High Scool in Bensonhurst at 16, younger than normal high-schooler graduates, in 1969. Later that year, he enrolled at Cooper Union to attend some physics courses until September 1971, when he decided to walk across the street and enroll himself in some courses to take mathematical physiology of the heart at New York University. However, both those courses went unfinished, and he never actually graduated from college.
But here’s the plot twist. Despite his educational shortcomings, he was able to walk into one of the most prestigious high schools in the world, Dalton. Somehow, he was able to convince then-headmaster Donald Barr, father of US Attorney General William Barr, that he had the knowledge and skills to teach high-school students advanced mathematics. He probably lied about his skills and his degree, yet that was just the start and in time it became the foundation upon which he built his empire in New York City. Not only that, but his twisted tongue also helped lure in victims into sex-trafficking.
While teaching at Dalton, Epstein became acquainted with Alan Greenberg, the CEO of Bear Stearns. His children studied at the school, and on one occasion, during a parent-teacher conference, Epstein managed to convince another Dalton parent into endorsing him to Greenberg. Greenberg who had been thoroughly impressed with Epstein’s intelligence and financial ambition offered him a position at Bear Stearns.
In 1987, Epstein was hired by Hoffenberg as a consultant for Tower Financial Corporation, a collection agency that bought debts people owed to hospitals, banks and phone companies. Epstein was set up in offices in the ‘Villard Houses’, located in Manhattan, with a monthly salary of $25,000 ($56,000 in 2019). They later reinvented themselves as corporate raiders using Tower Financials as their Trojan horse and subsequently implemented two unsuccessful bids, one to take over Pan American World Airways in 1987, and the other, to take over Emery Air Freight Corp in 1988. Epstein and Hoffenberg worked closely together during this time.
The downfall of Tower Financial Corporation came in 1993 when it became known as one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in American history. The firm lost over $450 million ($796,441,000 in 2019) worth of investor money. However, Hoffenberg ended up being the one to face the consequences of his transgressions as Epstein walked free and unscathed, despite being intimately involved in the scheme. Hoffenberg revealed in the ID special that Epstein had managed to befriend the accounting staff and alter numbers to make it seem like he had never been involved and the scheme and also supposedly walked away with stolen funds. Epstein had conveniently left the company in 1989, four years prior to its imminent collapse and was never charged with fraud.
Epstein had honed his “gift” of manipulation and faux charm over the years when he had learned of the power he possessed, and that much is certain. It was a learned tactic that he comprehensible used, climbing up the social ladder and garnering as well as maintaining the favor of celebrated personalities. Most people who knew the enigmatic Epstein in his life described him to be a “magnetic” personality, that they enjoyed being in his presence, New Scotland Yard analyst Laura Richards said in an article for Town and Country Mag. He had a way with words, he had the ability to read people and he even knew to gauge their vulnerabilities, understand it and use it against them.
‘Who Killed Jeffrey Epstein?’ airs on May 31 as a part of ‘ID Presents: Nine at 9’ with new premieres running nightly at 9 pm on Investigation Discovery.